Me, as a sports fan, over the years …

NBA

When I landed in USA in early 1998, Michael Jordan was about to culminate his fantastic run with the Bulls. I really enjoyed the 1998 Playoffs. And soon Shaquille O’Neal moved to LA. From 2000-2004, I spent a lot of time following NBA. The biggest sport thrill I had during this time period (bar none) was Robert Horry’s 3-pointer in Game4, which helped the Lakers tie that fantastic 2002 Western Conference Finals series at 2-2 (instead of going down 3-1). I remember screaming and doing a carpet sliding routine which surprised my wife! 🙂 Then came the Kobe-Shaq squabbles and it was painful to watch how two great players failed to recognize the good thing they had going and ultimately put their egos on top and sabotaged the whole setup. Over the next few years, though I did catch a few games here and there, I was not the kind of fan I was from 2000-04. The fact that Lakers were horrible probably had an impact. Then, out of the blue, Pau Gasol came to LA! Assuming Kobe does not go back to his old selfish routine, Lakers are going to be a perennial challenger for the next few years. Kobe versus Lebron is fun to watch! Let us see what happens this year …

Tennis

I have been following Tennis from 1985 (with the advent of Boris Becker) and always keep tabs on the Grand Slams, Masters Series and of course, my idols – Boris Becker, Patrick Rafter and now, Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal. Though post-Tennis, Becker has had his fair share of issues and problems, as a player, I loved to watch his battles with Edberg, Lendl, Agassi and Sampras. I still remember the great 1989 season when he won Wimbledon (beating Edberg) and US Open (beating Lendl), won Davis Cup (for Germany) and reached the Finals of the Masters (lost to Edberg). After winning the 1996 Australian Open, it was clear that his career was on a downfall. In 1998, I watched Rafter battle Sampras in the US Open Semifinals and liked his game a lot. I watched him win that US Open and later reach two successive Wimbledon Finals, ending with that heart-breaking loss to Ivanisevic in 2001. That same year, I remember watching Sampras lose in the 4th round of that Wimbledon to a 19-year-old upstart (more about him later). When this youngster lost in the Quarters, very next match, to Tim Henman, I remember telling my Uncle (who was visiting us at that time) that “I have seen guys like this several times. They surprise a top player and then vanish from the landscape”. At that time, with all my “Tennis Wisdom”, I felt good with my prediction! Later, in 2003, I was surprised to see the same guy, Roger Federer, play Mark Phillippoussis in the Finals. I was very impressed by his attacking style of play and has been a fan ever since. Though he has totally moved away from his original serve-and-volley style, his artistic style of play and those incredible shots are so much fun to watch. And his records? Well, that require a separate blog on its own (Wikipedia has a very good summary). In 2005, I recall watching the Miami Masters Finals between Federer and a guy called Rafael Nadal and Federer was trailing two sets. Though he came back to win, it was clear that Nadal was here to stay. Though Federer managed to keep him at bay till 2008, from 2008 clay court season till 2009 French, Nadal was the undisputed World No:1. Not that he was not great from 2005-2008, winning French Open every year and atleast 3 Masters every year, it was just that Federer was just a little bit better. What really made me a fan of Nadal was that unforgettable presentation ceremony at Australian Open 2009. It showed his class and the respect he had for his peers. I have never seen him speak ill of his peers in any interview. A real down-to-earth guy and I wish he is able to overcome his injury problems and resume his great rivalry with Federer. [In case you have not seen the highlights of the 2009 Australian Finals, please do so. That match had the best hardcourt shotmaking I have ever seen]. A quick note on Andy Roddick. Though I am not a big fan of his style of play, I am a huge fan of his “never give up” spirit and his hilarious press conferences. When you get a chance, please watch his press conference after 2004 Wimbledon Finals and 2007 Australian Semifinals. It is on YouTube. You will love his quotes. He, by far, has the best sense of humor among the professionals. Alas, “sense of humor” does not win Grand Slams and it is his pure bad luck to peak at a time when Federer and Nadal are prowling the scene. I really felt bad for him after the 2009 Wimbledon Finals. Can a guy ever try harder?

NFL

Though I used to keep tabs of the main headlines, I was never much into NFL. I remember being told of how complex a game it is and how it involves a lot of strategy and gameplans. From 2004, I started watching the SuperBowls. I remember listening to my colleagues (Raj, Anuj etc.) discuss the games. After joining Cisco, the passion for the game shown by my colleagues has rubbed off on me and I have been following NFL (and watching atleast 1-2 games during the weekends) since 2008. There are still some rules and plays I am not familiar with and I intend to learn about it soon. My favorite player? Peyton Manning. Favorite team? As with most of the fans, I love to watch high-scoring offenses. Hence I liked Saints and Vikings this year. Though it would be surreal for Saints to win this year, I get a feeling that Colts will squash that plan. The games I enjoyed the most were: Colts beating Patriots earlier this year at Indianapolis and Cardinals beating Packers (51-45!!!) in an unbelievable and exciting game (albeit with ZERO defense) ….

Cricket

How can a person of Indian origin not like Cricket? Well, that is for another blog …

Question: What would make my 2010 (as a sports fan)?

Answer: Federer winning a Grand Slam in 2010 and Lakers crushing Cavaliers 4-0 in NBA Finals. Heh Heh 🙂 Also, I am fine with either Colts or Saints winning the SuperBowl.

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